UCC delegation to visit Japan and the Philippines
The United Church of Christ is taking nearly a dozen people to Asia for a two-week journey that begins Aug. 4 to learn about disaster responses to two major weather catastrophes in the region — the tsunami in Japan and the typhoon in the Philippines — and how the donations from the wider church to One Great Hour of Sharing have aided the recovery.
The educational mission trip for the 11-person group will also highlight the need for an endowment fund that ensures the UCC can continue engaging in disaster recovery work in the future.
“We want to get folks to understand the impact that the UCC has on the other side of the world — not only with large disasters like Japan and the Philippines, but also small disasters — and how even though we are a smaller church we have a large impact,” said Zach Wolgemuth, executive for UCC Disaster Ministries, who will join the group for a pre-trip orientation and in the Philippines. “For people to see our impact, it’s important because they can come back and tell the story themselves. Often times, were aren’t the first on the ground, but we are often the last to leave, so that rehabilitation and how we help people return to normalcy is worth sharing.”
In Japan, one of the largest earthquakes in history in March 2011 triggered a 23-foot tsunami that subsequently damaged the Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in contamination. In the Philippines, a pair of typhoons battered and destroyed towns and villages almost a year apart — the most recent of which struck the South Pacific nation in December 2014. That second super typhoon’s strong winds and torrential rains caused flooding which damaged and destroyed homes, ruined crops and fields. Disaster recovery in both areas were supported by gifts through the UCC.
“Some of there work we do in the Philippines is still ongoing, almost two years later after the first typhoon, helping people rebuild their homes and get back on their feet,” Wolgemuth said.
Jeffrey Mensendiek, a Global Ministries Mission Personnel working in Japan at the time of the tsunami, will accompany the group and share what occurred and the progress made since the disaster. That will be part of how the group learns how each country planned and implements its recovery efforts.
The Rev. Xiaoling Zhu, Global Ministries area executive for the East Asia and the Pacific, who is collaborating on the disaster recovery initiatives in the region, will lead the delegation. The Rev. Phyllis Richards will help the group see the first-hand realities and importance of the work of One Great Hour of Sharing, helping to make the connection between that once-a-year offering and the long-term implications it has in the lives of people.
The delegation will also include staff from the UCC Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship so they, as fundraising staff, can gain a better understanding of the disaster relief ministry of the wider church.
“Part of our purpose on the trip is to share the disaster relief work with the Office of Philanthropy and Stewardship,” said Pat Lyden, the associate director of grants and scholarship administration. “We are joined on this trip by three West Coast donors, and when we return we’ll be looking for opportunities to apply for foundation grants to support the global mission of the church and disaster relief. It’s a way of bringing a new source of funding to that ministry.”
Follow the group’s trip through their blog posts with updates of their daily activities and reflections of the experience.
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